2019 polar vortex: Here’s how the brutal cold impacted the U.S.


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While residents in Chicago hunker down indoors during the Polar Vortex, one good Samaritan offered to help shelter 70 homeless people after the Chicago Fire Department had to confiscate nearly 100 propane tanks that were donated to the group to keep them warm.

Officials with the fire department said the tanks had to be taken away after one exploded.

The Salvation Army Metropolitan Division in Illinois was contacted by the fire department about the group and were in the process of making arrangements for them to go to a warming center when the fire department told them that someone had offered to help by paying for hotel rooms. 

Jacqueline Rachev, a spokeswoman for the organization, said she is not sure of the person’s identity.

The anonymous good Samaritan isn’t the only person trying to help the homeless during the deep freeze. Khloe Thompson, an 11-year-old girl in California, started a GoFundMe account Tuesday to raise money for Chicago’s Salvation Army, according to the Chicago Sun Times.

As of Thursday afternoon, the GoFundMe had raised more than $48,000. 

“I’ve watched the news about the polar vortex and I’ve seen how cold it’s getting across the country, especially in Chicago,” Thompson said in the GoFundMe. “The homeless population needs our help.”  


More than 1,700 flights were canceled Thursday at Chicago’s main airports. 

At least 1,479 cancellations and 90 delays were reported at Chicago O’Hare International Airport as of 1:45 p.m., according to the Chicago Department of Aviation. There were 258 cancellations at Chicago Midway International Airport. Delays at both airports were less than 15 minutes for flights still operating, the Chicago Department of Aviation reported. 

Relief is coming. 

Some regions affected by the polar vortex are going to feel downright balmy in just a few days. 

“There‘s going to be a 60 degree temperature rise” in some areas of the Midwest, said Greg Carbin, chief of forecast operations for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s weather predictions center. “It is pretty remarkable,” he said. 

  • Chicago, where the mercury fell to minus 22 Wednesday, can expect temperatures in the 50s on Monday.
  • In Minneapolis, the low temperature was minus 28 on Wednesday, but by Sunday the high is forecast to be 45 degrees. 
  • Bismarck, North Dakota, suffered through a minus 33 low on Wednesday. On Friday, the temperature is expected to rise to 37 degrees. 
  • Detroit saw a low temperature of minus 12 on Wednesday, but Saturday could bring a high of 37.
  • Des Moines, Iowa, dipped to minus 20 degrees on Wednesday and is forecast to see a high of 45 degrees on Saturday. 

Carbin said that following this “pretty dramatic turnaround,” temperatures are expected to fall again later in the week. But don’t worry. “It’s not going to be quite as cold,” Carbin said. 


Two young children in Illinois were found walking alone outside of their apartment building in the freezing temperatures, a spokesperson for the Cook County Sheriff’s Office said Thursday.

The children, a 3-year-old boy and 5-year-old girl, were found just after 2 p.m. Wednesday in the village of Arlington Heights. One child wasn’t properly dressed for the weather, the sheriff’s department said in a press release.

Temperatures Wednesday afternoon dropped to around minus 12, according to the National Weather Service.

Both children were crying and “had some skin redness” when they were found. They were taken to a local hospital to be treated for weather-related injuries.

“They appear to be OK,” a spokesperson said.

The sheriff’s office said it is investigating why the children were left out in the cold. So far, no arrests have been made. 



A 26-year-old mother in Lawrence, Kansas, was arrested early Wednesday morning for allegedly leaving her children, ages 2 and 3, in a car with no heat, the Lawrence Police Department said in a tweet.

The woman, whose name was not released, was allegedly kicked out of the Playerz Sports Bar around 1:40 a.m., the department said in a press release. 

Police were called when the woman tried to get back into the bar.

By the time police arrived, the woman had left the bar in her car but officers later found her. She was arrested on charges of aggravated endangering a child and operating a vehicle under the influence.

Authorities said the children, who were not injured, were left in the cold car “for a substantial amount of time.” Temperatures in that area Wednesday morning was around 5 degrees, according to the National Weather Service. 

“We can’t stress enough how dangerous this cold is. Please take proper precautions, and use common sense,” the police department said in a tweet. 

Amazon said it closed some buildings, including fulfillment centers across the Midwest.

“We work hard to deliver on our fast, free shipping promise, but weather conditions are out of our control,” Amazon said in a statement. “Customer service is available to work with any customer who is experiencing an issue.”

By the time the chief of the Cameron Fire Department in Wisconsin finished battling a house fire, he was covered in snow and ice. It was so cold in Wisconsin on Wednesday morning that the water from the fire hose that splashed on the chief turned to an icy mix. 

The deep freeze isn’t over just yet. Here’s the latest in cities across the Midwest and Northeast as of 10:15 a.m CST (11:15 a.m.): 

The cold weather didn’t let up Thursday morning as the misery polar vortex spread to the Northeast. 

Here’s how cold it was as people commuted to work at 8 a.m. CST (9 a.m. EST) Thursday.

The COLD continues to ravage the middle and northeastern portions of the country Thursday, with more records falling this morning. 

A new all-time record of minus 29 was set in Moline, Illinois, and it’s minus 33 in Aurora, Illinois, (just outside Chicago) Thursday morning. The state record of minus 36F is now within reach. Another 90 daily cold records could be set today!

Right now, 120 million people across 27 states are under wind chill warnings or wind chill advisories, stretching from the Upper Midwest over to Maine and down to part of North Carolina. 

Wind chills will not be quite as cold as Wednesday, but are still absolutely brutal across the Midwest and Northeast. Chicago’s wind chill is back down into the minus 40s this morning.

NYC is hovering around 15 below zero. 

Chicago once again won’t rise above zero for their high Thursday. They’ve now been below zero for 48 hours. The forecast for Thursday is minus 4. Over in the Northeast, highs will be in the teens.

Thursday’s high with wind chills

NYC: 17/below zero or near zero

Boston: 16/below zero maybe even into the sub-zero teens

DC: 10/minus 3

Minneapolis: minus 23/minus 23

Chicago: minus 20/minus 37

Friday’s high with wind chills

Minneapolis: 20/single digits

Chicago: 23/teens

NYC: 20s/teens

Boston: 20/10


A potentially record-setting rebound is about to play out across the Midwest and even part of the Northeast, where temps will jump 40-70 degrees between Wednesday and Sunday.

The following locations, broken down by the three-digit zip codes, will not receive mail deliveries on Thursday. 

  • Michigan: 486-491, 493-499
  • Indiana: 460-469, 472-475, 478, 479
  • Chicago: 606-608
  • Lakeland: 530-532, 534, 535, 537-539, 541-545, 549, 600, 602, 601, 611
  • Detroit: 480-485, 492
  • Illinois: 601, 603-605, 609, 613, 614, 616, 617, 618, 627
  • Northern Ohio (Toledo area): 436
  • Western Pennsylvania (Erie, Bradford areas): 164, 165, 167

Source of locations: USPS

A travel ban issued in an upstate New York County Wednesday afternoon due to ‘blizzard-like conditions’ was lifted later in the night. 

The Genesee County Sheriff’s office said it had responded to multiple vehicles that had driven off the road and traffic accidents with injuries in the midst of “blowing and drifting” snow. 

The sheriff’s office asked that all drivers, besides emergency vehicles, stay off the roads Wednesday afternoon and evening. The ban was lifted at 9 p.m. ET. 

With the weather in most parts of the country dipping below freezing, many people may be asking: Can I stay home from work?

When working from home isn’t an option based on the nature of the position (in the case of say waitstaff or retail clerks), what are the rules? Does the law protect you if you literally can’t make it to work because of the weather? Click here to read what an employment lawyer and a HR consultant had to say.

NBC News meteorologist Bill Karins noted that the 48 below zero temperature recorded in Norris Camp, Minnesota, on Wednesday was only two degrees colder than it was in Cotton, Minnesota, on Jan. 20.

It was also nowhere near the state record.

Due to extremely cold temperatures, we will be closed Thursday, Pittsburgh public schools announced. 

It was shaping up to be a frigid day across New York state. 

Peter Hall, a meteorologist at NBC affiliate WTSM in Syracuse, highlighted that wind chills were as low as 29 below zero in Binghamton at 4 a.m. ET.

“You can get frostbite in 30 minutes when the wind chill is minus 20 degrees. You can get frostbite in 20 minutes when the wind chill is minus 30 degrees,” Hall warned in a tweet.

NBC New York also predicted that commuters in the Big Apple would encounter conditions that felt as cold as the minus 20s on Thursday morning.

A fire has prompted officials to ask Michigan residents and businesses to turn down their thermostats.

Gas flowing from a Consumers Energy site in Macomb County was shut off after a blaze at a compressor station on Wednesday. The firm provides natural gas to 1.8 million customers.

Sally Talberg, the chairman of the Michigan Public Service Commission, said: “This unfortunate incident happened at a difficult time for our state and we ask that everyone do what they can to make sure there is a plentiful supply of natural gas to keep everyone safe and warm during the extreme cold weather.”

She said turning thermostats down “a couple of degrees,” blocking leaks around doors and windows and unplugging electronic device when not in use would help.

“We understand the timing of this situation and our request to customers is not ideal given today’s extremely cold temperatures,” Consumers Energy said in a statement.

The company added that it was “working with suppliers to bring other gas on through other means.”

Some police departments affected by the deep freeze gripping a large part of the nation have taken to social media to ask criminals to take a break until the weather improves.

The Taneytown, Maryland, police department wrote Wednesday on Facebook: “Those thinking about doing some crime tonight, It’s really super cold outside and only getting colder.”

“So instead of crime we suggest staying at home and doing the following,” the department wrote, suggesting binge-watching Netflix, reading a book with some hot chocolate, or “Watch old reruns of COPS.”

The Warrensburg, Missouri, police department issued a similar plea on Monday, writing, “So…we are asking a favor (at least for the next three days); can you keep the criminalling to a minimum? It is REALLY cold out…do yourself (and us) a favor…stay inside. Be nice to each other, watch reruns of Say Yes to the Dress (we hear from the fire fighters that it’s a really good show).”

The Frederick Municipal Airport in Maryland, around 20 miles southwest of Taneytown, recorded temperatures of 9 degrees late Wednesday, according to the weather service. Whiteman Air Force Base near Warrensburg recorded 4 degrees Wednesday night. 

NBC News
2019-01-31 23:33:54

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